Susan White
Four Twenty am
archival pigment print
20-1/2 x 29-1/2 inches
edition 1/3


Susan White
Three Fifteen am

archival pigment print, 2011
20-1/2 x 29-1/2 inches
edition 1/3

It’s early in the morning, that time of day when the brightness of morning fuses with the deep black of night, and all is seemingly quiet. Existence is hibernating, soaking up sweet sleep and preparing for the next day. I am waiting. Waiting for my eyes to close of their own accord, waiting for my brain to clock-out for the day, for any sign that dizzying sleep is near. I toss, I turn, I commit to counting numbers, but these techniques only further distract me from the task at hand. Sleep. I manage to find an image to focus on, a tree or pink frosty layer cake, but just as I reach the cusp of unconscious bliss – pop! My mind crackles with those finicky mental creatures, the bits and pieces of my life that reside only in the depths of my gray matter, and decide to show up when I crave only sleep. But the aggressors, the creatures themselves, have no face, no name. There is no way to speak rationally to them. Excuse me, sirs. I don’t enjoy my anxiety ridden memories of struggling to communicate in France, and I’m not sure why you’re pushing them to the front of my brain right now, please, let me sleep. And there is no way to physically attack them, to force them to stop with fists and brass knuckles because they are amorphous, they reside in the ether. The frustration only mounts as these realities present themselves, and soon I find myself cursing the air. If only I could assign blame to something tangible.

It is these late night, early morning misters, these brain arousing, sleep stealing sisters, that inspired Susan White’s Four Twenty am and Three Fifteen am. Taken from her film Mind Games the creatures depicted in these photographs are in reality petite structures made of paper, wax and wood, but they have been manipulated and magnified. Just as the mental crackles keeping us awake at night take on a life of their own in our sleepless frustration the structures are minute, but ominous, towering. Each creature boasts strikingly long, seemingly mobile legs beneath a squat torso-like shape: they are both strangely familiar and acutely foreign. The creatures have a recognizable spider-like quality, but they are mechanical and unnatural as they loom in a sea of indistinct grays. The warmth of this rich background lighting creates a sense of lamp-like comfort, but the mix of shadows and textures within the being itself further a sense of danger and panic. The creatures are at once small and creeping, but large and pervasive: the nature of sleeplessness itself. The littlest memories, the tiniest daily accoutrement, can make sleep elusive, and without sleep our brains become a frothy cocktail of unpreparedness, raw and uncontrollable emotions, and short attention spans. My anxiety ridden stay in the south of France, memories that have sat on my mental shelf for seven years now, suddenly dictate my mood (inevitably sore) and productivity (slightly better than awful) the following day. What Four Twenty am and Three Fifteen am. have provided is a face for the indescribable creatures that propel me into that state, and guarantee a morning saturated with coffee and an afternoon dense with yawns.

– Halcombe Miller

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